Last Christmas my dad gave me some money to go on an excursion with Jason. We thought about wine tours or a trip to Hobbiton, but we could never find the perfect day to drink a lot of wine, and we went to Hobbiton two years ago. This cruise I had the full day off in Tauranga, so we decided to find a way to a geyser in the area.
There are excursions run by the ship, but the last time we did one of those it ran late and turned into a stressful day. Jason did a bit of research, and we figured out that it would be easier to rent a car and go by ourselves.
The park of Te Puia is in Rotorua, about an hour’s drive from where the ship docks at Mount Maunganui. We got up crazy early (especially considering the all-crew St. Patrick’s Day party the previous night) and we’re off the ship by 8:15am. A shuttle took us from the ship to the rental car agency, and we were on the road before 9am.
When we arrived, we were greeted by this gate, the Whatitoka Waharoa.
The carvings represent the tribal ancestors or gods for the village. Along the paths through the whole park, statues similar to the totems in Alaska peeked out from the trees. All of them were different, and I loved their faces.
Te Puia is a cultural area that is home to the Pōhutu Geyser, a Kiwi house, mud pools, and a reconstructed historic Māori village. In some ways, the village reminded me of Living History Farms at home. I love seeing how people used to live, so we headed to the Pikirangi village first.
This would have been the sleeping shelter for a whole family. The roof hangs over the walls to better protect from the rain. Heat stayed in because of the small doorway, and there was only one other escape hatch in the back in case of fire or emergency.
I wish the village had more details and explanations about the buildings. My favorite part of LHF in Des Moines is seeing the people demonstrating the lives of families in each time period. There was one sign explaining the sleeping house, but I want to know more about all the parts of the village. Why are there faces on the front of houses? What was the fancy red structure raised off the ground? What is the building next to it? I want to know!
After the village, we walked around to the Kiwi house.
Kiwis are nocturnal, so we had never seen any. You can’t take any pictures inside because they artificially flip the day and night. It’s almost pitch black, but red lights near the ceiling give just enough light to see the kiwi. I was surprised at how big it was. When we walked through, the bird was pretty active looking for food. I have to say, I’m glad we managed to see a kiwi before leaving New Zealand.
We followed the paths around past the kiwi house, and we saw the Ngā mōkai-ā-Koko mud pool next.
This mud pool is the largest in the area, and it goes down between five and ten meters deep. The mud is boiling, and we could hear the gargling and smell the sulfur as soon as we approached the pool. It reminded me of the Bog of Eternal Stench in the movie Labyrinth.
Just past the the mud pool we could see the Geyser terrace.
Along the walk we passed a couple guys who were demonstrating the Māori method of cooking food in the natural steam vents of the Geyser system. They said that an ear of corn would take about ten minutes to cook, and a cut of meat would take a couple of hours.
My favorite part of the day was seeing all the different statues scattered around the park. Each one had a unique expression, and I liked that they were tucked away all over the place.
If you want to see more, Jason made a video you can watch here: https://youtu.be/FRu7IORY3Hc